Spoken-word fest comes to colleges to address sexual assault issues

Listen Poetry Festival also has portion for local high schoolers

SARANAC LAKE — The Adirondack Center for Writing and Planned Parenthood Sexual Assault Services are teaming up to pilot the first Listen Poetry Festival.

The public portion of the festival will be held on two days: Monday at 7 p.m. in Freer Hall at Paul Smith’s College in Paul Smiths, and Tuesday at 1:45 p.m. in the S-19 lecture hall at North Country Community College’s Saranac Lake campus.

The collaboration pairs an arts organization with a public health organization, something the organizers say is the only collaboration of its kind in the nation.

Inspired by the fact that April is both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Poetry Month, organizers hope that the Listen Festival will combine arts programming with a critical social health message.

The Adirondack Center for Writing has worked with performance poets in the past whose work has tackled difficult topics, presenting readings at a number of community venues including Paul Smith’s College and NCCC. For the Listen Festival, the ACW is bringing spoken word poets Carlos Andres Gomez, Jon Sands, Jeanann Verlee and Lauren Whitehead to the region to explore themes of sexual consent.

More than 400 regional high school students will take part in the Listen Festival with closed performances and writing workshops on the mornings of Monday and Tuesday at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. The high school portion is made possible through the support of local sponsors, public and private: The Bookstore Plus, Dorothy Federman, Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Lake Placid Central School, Saranac Lake Central School and Westport Central School.

These events are free and open to the public, though donations are welcome. The Bookstore Plus, New York State Police Campus Sexual Assault Victims Unit, The Counseling Center and the NCCC Student Government Association all contributed to make the festival possible.